Qantas has made its firmest announcement yet on the resumption of international travel, with flights scheduled from Australia to the UK, US, Canada and beyond from December 18.
The country's flag carrier will first launch routes from Sydney and Melbourne to London, Vancouver, and Singapore; followed the next day (December 19) with services to Los Angeles, Honolulu, Fiji and Tokyo, it confirmed this morning to Yahoo Finance.
No return routes from the UK to Australia have yet been announced. This is, however, the first time Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has committed to hard dates for outbound services since almost all passenger flights were grounded at the start of the pandemic.
Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrisson has said citizens can travel internationally once 80 per cent of the population is vaccinated. Thus far, about half of that target has been met, with 42.55 per cent of adults double-jabbed.
The Federal Government is in the process of developing a virtual border pass called the Digital Passenger Declaration (DPD) which will apply to all travellers entering and leaving the country.
Scroll down for more of the latest.
Everything you need to know about the new ski train to the Alps
For weeks, Eurostar has been quietly telling skiers that “with a great deal of sadness” it had cancelled its ski train service for the coming season, while publicly stating that “a decision had not been made”.
Behind the scenes, however, negotiations were taking place. Compagnie des Alpes (CDA), which operates many of the ski lifts in French ski resorts, has chartered the train to ensure British skiers have the option to travel to the Alps by rail this winter.
Although Eurostar will operate the service, it will be exclusively marketed by Travelski, a French tour operator owned by CDA, and marketed as the 'Travelski Express'.
The 20 greatest cities for an autumn break – and where to stay
As the nights start getting longer and the trees lining parks, streets and embankments slowly turn amber, as people turn to Christmas markets and winter festivals, and seek quieter exhibitions, good hotel deals and seasonal fall food, it's time to head to the city.
Poll: What is the worst aspect of travelling amid the pandemic?
Biggest fall in weekly worldwide cases in more than two months
Last week saw the biggest fall in the number of Covid worldwide for more than two months, according to the latest data from the World Health Organization, writes Anne Gulland.
In the seven days up to September 12 there were nearly four million cases of the virus globally - compared to more than 4.4 million the previous week. This is a drop of nearly 14 per cent.
Every region of the world has seen a fall in the number of cases, with the WHO regions of the Americas, South East Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean seeing the biggest declines.
However, the UK had the second largest number of cases worldwide in the week up to 12 September. The UK reported just over 256,000 cases, second only to the United States which reported just over one million new cases. However, there has been a fall in the number of new cases in the UK in recent days.
The WHO figures show there has also been a drop in the number of deaths globally - there were just over 62,000 deaths in the last seven days compared to 68,000 reported the previous week. South East Asia - where the virus has been surging in countries such as Indonesia and Vietnam - saw the biggest fall with a 20 per cent drop in the number of deaths.
Since the start of the pandemic there have been more than 224 million cases of Covid and 4.6 million deaths.
Why we should embrace the curious (untranslatable) Dutch practice of 'uitwaaien'
The Netherlands will reopen to British visitors on September 22, and it has a solution to the winter blues, according to Kate Wickers. She writes:
Uitwaaien (pronounced out-vay-ehn) is one of those lovely Dutch words that has no English equivalent and translates as “out blowing”, specifically of the wind. Ask a Nederlander about the exact meaning and “to walk with the wind” is the most common explanation (although cycling is also acceptable), displaying the romantic side of the Dutch psyche that is so often overshadowed by a reputation for practicality.
My preference for practising uitwaaien is in a wind that eats up kites and spits them back out again, the sort that keeps airborne seagulls stationary, and into which I must battle with my head down, forced to turn sideways to take gulps of air. That is the kind of wind that delivers true exhilaration...
Club Med reports surge in interest for Turkey and the Maldives ahead of next travel announcement
Estelle Giraudeau, Managing Director, UK & Northern Europe at Club Med tells Telegraph Travel:
Like many others in the travel industry, we await the government travel announcements with bated breath. We understand there is speculation for the Maldives and Turkey to be finally removed from the red list and reinstated as a holiday option for Brits.
This would be a welcome sigh of relief, with both incredibly popular destinations offering the perfect option for some late summer sun. Google search data for ‘when will Turkey be removed from the red list’ has increased by 200% in the past seven days.
Furthermore, Club Med’s resort in the Maldives, Kani, is the top five most visited page on the UK website and web traffic is up 35% this week, while online sales to Palmiye in Turkey are up 100% over the past seven days.”
South Africa is free from the beta variant, figures show
South Africa is free of the beta variant, according to official data, which indicates that there has been no measurable level of beta genomes sequenced for at least two weeks in the country.
The beta variant, which was first identified in South Africa in December 2020, has not gained any meaningful presence outside South Africa owing to its low transmissibility and the effectiveness of vaccines against it.
Of the four major variants of concern identified by the World Health Organisation, beta has the lowest transmissibility advantage (25%) over the ancestral Covid variant that originated in China.
Instead, the delta variant now accounts for over 96% of all genomes sequenced in South Africa, as per the latest data issued by the National Institute of Clinical Diseases (NICD).
David Frost, CEO of the South African Tourism Services Association (SATSA), said:
South Africa’s infection rate is now tracking at a sixth of the UK’s and below key destinations on the UK’s amber travel list, such as the US, France, Germany and Greece. The only variant of concern circulating in South Africa is delta – the same as the UK, and we have the best testing and sequencing capabilities on the African continent.
There is absolutely no scientific basis on which the UK can continue to maintain its travel ban on South Africa, and on behalf of the 1.5 million people who rely on the South African tourism sector for work, we are now calling for an urgent review of the available data by UK authorities.
Air travel won't return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024, says Boeing
It could take another two-and-a-half years for air travel to see a return to pre-pandemic levels, plane maker Boeing has estimated.
Vice president of commercial marketing Darren Hulst said he believes the industry will see "2019 levels of traffic by the end of 2023, early 2024."
Long-haul international routes would take the longest to recover, according to Boeing's forecast, partly because of government travel restrictions. Hulst said these will need to be eased to enable "the recovery of the pent up demand that exists already in the marketplace."
Last year, passenger numbers fell 60 per cent to 1.8 billion, according to the airline body IATA, which said it was the worst year on record, as the industry lost $126billion.
In focus: Cases in Australia and the US
Hopes have been boosted for the reopening of Australia and the US to tourists before Christmas. But how are cases looking in each nation?
Before you pack your bags and pin hopes on a return to the States or a trip down under, here’s a reminder of the latest data.
Britons will no longer need to quarantine in the Netherlands
The Netherlands is easing Covid restrictions next week, allowing double-jabbed travellers from the UK to visit without the need to self-isolate for 5-10 days. A statement reads:
The rules on self-quarantining for people travelling to the Netherlands will change as of September 22. Vaccinated travellers from the United States, the United Kingdom and other very high-risk areas no longer have to self-quarantine on arrival in the Netherlands.
The Dutch government announced yesterday that it will introduce a "corona" pass showing proof of vaccination to go to bars, restaurants, clubs or cultural events.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte said most social distancing requirements will be dropped from September 25.
Broadway's big names are back in New York
Broadway's biggest musicals roared back to life on Tuesday, banishing the eerie silence of the past 18 months in New York's pandemic-hit theatre district with screams, tears and standing ovations.
Emotions were giddy as the curtain rose again on top musicals Hamilton, The Lion King and Wicked before packed audiences welcoming back live theatre after the coronavirus shutdown.
Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda received a standing ovation when he appeared on stage before the start of his Tony Award-winning hip-hop show about America's founding fathers.
A few blocks away, Kristin Chenoweth made a surprise appearance before the start of Wicked, in which she originated the role of Glinda about 20 years ago. Composer Steven Schwartz joined a prolonged curtain call.
Julie Taymor, director of The Lion King, opened the show by telling the audience: "As Rafiki says, it is time." The long-running musical Chicago also re-opened to long applause after every song.
Broadway was one of the first institutions to close when the pandemic hit in mid-March 2020 and is the last to re-open in the United States.
Heathrow's 'Covid Clean' measures
This just in from one of our writers, Guy de la Bédoyère, at London Heathrow Airport...
A 'Covid Clean' charging station in T5. Except that none of them work so one person after another gives them a go, plastering their hands all over them and trying each socket and USB port. Not quite clear how they are made Covid Clean, which just seems to be an ethereal statement of intent. Or is it an instruction? Covid! Clean! They're Covid Clean because they have a sticker on them that says so. Perhaps we could all wear stickers saying the same thing then we could all travel safely...
Sydney curfew to end for vaccinated
A curfew imposed on more than two million people in the 12 Sydney suburbs hardest hit by the spread of the delta variant will end on Wednesday night, authorities said, stopping short of easing more lockdown restrictions.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian warned it would be against the law for unvaccinated people to attend any public venues once the state hits 70 per cent, when the fully vaccinated are promised more freedom.
"It's black and white. If you're not vaccinated, you can't go to a restaurant, you can't go to a cafe," she said, urging the unvaccinated to get their shots soon.
New South Wales, the epicentre of Australia's delta outbreak, reported a slight rise in new infections to 1,259, the majority in Sydney, from 1,127 on Tuesday, and 12 deaths.
Travellers with AstraZeneca vaccine not eligible for Swiss Covid pass
UK travellers face a disadvantage in Switzerland, where the AstraZeneca jab is not recognised in terms of receiving a Covid pass, it has been confirmed.
A rep for Switzerland Tourism told Telegraph Travel:
Like in many other countries in Europe, the Swiss government had announced that Covid certificates will be mandatory in order to enter restaurants [and other venues] as of September 13. Currently, persons who had received the AZ vaccine are not eligible to get a Swiss/EU Covid Certificate.
However, the Swiss government is working on confirmation regarding the acceptance of the AZ vaccine for a Swiss Certificate and how to get a Swiss Certificate with an NHS one. This is to be expected as early as September 20, and the latest as of October 1.
Rapid antigen testing every other day is the way to go for now. This is free in Switzerland for international visitors until the end of the month. No certificate is required for outdoor or in-room dining.
Mask wearing becoming political, warns WHO envoy
The World Health Organisation's special envoy Dr David Nabarro said:
In some countries the actual act of wearing a mask or accepting some restrictions that Covid requires is some sort of political activity you do if you belong to one party.
And if you do it you belong to one party, and if you don't you belong to another. I want to be very clear, this virus has no political affiliations at all.
The facts are the same, whatever party you vote for.
Travel chiefs demand all ‘unnecessary and unfair’ tests are scrapped
Despite indications from the government that PCR tests for travellers will be scrapped, industry chiefs are concerned that the prospect of even two lateral flow tests – up to 72 hours before departure and on day two of holidaymakers’ return to the UK – will deter people from flying abroad.
In a letter to Boris Johnson, 13 chief executives representing Britain’s main airlines, airports, tourism and business groups urged him to scrap all tests that were placing an "unnecessary and unfair" burden on vaccinated travellers.
We urge you to acknowledge the damaging and detrimental effect this ineffective regime has on the UK’s competitiveness, on the inbound visitor economy, and on people visiting loved ones, enjoying hard-earned holidays or travelling for important business connections.
Removing testing requirements for vaccinated passengers is an essential step towards solving these problems, without which the aviation sector and wider travel industry cannot recover.
End of PCR tests in sight for fully vaccinated travellers
Sajid Javid has signalled the end of PCR tests for fully jabbed holidaymakers as travel chiefs called for all tests for people arriving from low-risk countries to be scrapped.
The Health Secretary told MPs on Tuesday that they could expect the Government’s global travel review, due this week, to replace the expensive PCR tests with cheaper lateral flow tests.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson also confirmed that the traffic light system would be simplified and the burdens of testing made “less onerous” for those returning to the UK.
Australia: Which flights are launching in December?
If all goes to plan, Qantas plans to resume the following routes:
December 18, 2021
December 19, 2021
What happened yesterday?
A quick recap:
Boris Johnson: Government will simplify traffic light system
Indonesia eyes reopening when 70 per cent are vaccinated
Less than 1.5% of red and amber list arrivals testing positive
Sajid Javid: Travel restrictions are 'under review'
12 countries could be removed from red list – incl Pakistan & Peru